Archive for May, 2009

Do You Really Know Michael Moorcock?

Jeff VanderMeer • May 31st, 2009 • Culture

“It is all quintessential Moorcock — a wild, fascinating batch of stories fairly balancing the fantastic and the nearly ordinary, and showcasing Moorcock’s talent very well, thank you.” – Booklist, starred review

You might think you know Michael Moorcock, but you could be wrong. It’s not just the novels, the nonfiction, the editing, and various other pursuits–it’s also about a body of short fiction that ranges from the realistic to the surrealistic and fantastical, and that has influenced generations of writers.

With The Best of Michael Moorcock, edited by John Davey with input from myself and Ann, now out in bookstores and getting rave attention from the likes of Boing Boing and others–see this good review from Charles Tan–I thought I’d just remind you it’s out there. Not only does the content include some of my favorite stories from Moorcock–his World War III stories still have the power to kick you in the teeth–it also features a brilliant interior design by the amazing John Coulthart. (Full contents list here.)

As the ad copy says:

These exceptional stories range effortlessly from the genre tales that continue to define fantasy to the author’s critically-acclaimed mainstream works. Classic offerings include the Nebula award-winning novella “Behold the Man,” which introduces a time traveler and unlikely messiah that H.G. Wells never imagined, “The Visible Men,” a recent tale of the ambiguous and androgynous secret agent Jerry Cornelius, the trilogy “My Experiences in the Third World War,” where a Russian agent in an alternate Cambodia is powerless to prevent an inevitable march toward nuclear disaster, and “A Portrait in Ivory,” a Melibone story of troubled anti-hero Elric and his soul-stealing sword, Stormbringer.

It might have been hard to help make decisions about what to include and what not to include, but it’s quite easy to summon the energy to assist in editing a Moorcock collection–because in addition to being an iconic talent he’s also the wisest, nicest person we know, along with his truly wonderful wife Linda. A big thank you again to John Davey for being kind enough to let us be a part of what was really his Herculean effort.

Here’s a generous helping from our afterword…

(more…)

The Brothers Bloom: Another Winner from the Director of Brick

Jeff VanderMeer • May 31st, 2009 • Movie Reviews

When we rented Brick a couple of years ago, we didn’t know what to expect. What we got was an unsettling and often brilliant dark, dark comedy-drama that seemed pitch-perfect from beginning to end.

Director Rian Johnson is now back with The Brothers Bloom, which is billed as a con men comedy but is actually as sad as it is funny and poses some interesting questions about the nature of identity. Ann and I loved this movie, and I’m a little surprised at the reaction in some quarters to it. No, there aren’t a lot of coincidences in the movie. No, it’s not just about the con. In fact, several things go wrong in the cons, and any “coincidences” are with regard to elements under the strict control of the con men.

(more…)

The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals: Final TOC

Jeff VanderMeer • May 31st, 2009 • News


(Cover by John Coulthart; the blurb reads, “What use is this? If ever I were to cook one of these, you know you wouldn’t eat it anyway.” – Bubbe)

We’ve just turned in The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals, subtitled “The Evil Monkey Dialogues.” The cover and interior design will both be by John Coulthart. Each entry in the bestiary will be illustrated with art either selected or created by Coulthart (and we hope to stick in some Ian Miller, too…). Joseph Nigg, author of The Book of Fabulous Beasts (OUP), provides a foreword. The release date is February 2010, just in time for Purim–although I should add that the book will appeal to non-Jews as well. We’ve added a pinch of Borges here and there. Our book is a lot sillier than his bestiary, of course, but it seemed somehow an oversight not to do a tip of the hat…

What works for a blog entry is different than what works for a book. In creating the book version of Kosher, we jettisoned some of the entries that originally featured on the blog, added new ones, and radically revised and supplemented the original entries we did keep. It should make for a very nice gift book–a beautiful little hardcover, 5 x 7, 96 pages.

Here’s the description and the TOC:

Whimsically illustrated, this bite-sized bestiary is the deciding vote on which fantastical creatures are kosher. Embarking on an undomesticated romp from A to Z, the ritual cleanliness of E.T., hobbits, Mongolian Death Worms, and the elusive chupacabra are discussed. This hilarious kashrut is the offspring of a debate that began on Jeff Vandermeer’s blog, between his alter-ego, Evil Monkey, and his editor/wife. Addressing questions such as Is a vegetable-lamb a vegetable or a lamb? Does licking the Pope make you trayf? What exactly is a Pollo Maligno? and Is Sasquatch roast stringy? this irreverent abecedary is a perfect gift for anyone seeking to broaden their imaginary culinary experiences guilt-free.

(more…)

Smell Pollution

Jeff VanderMeer • May 31st, 2009 • Uncategorized


(Taken from here.)

Maybe it’s just because I’m going slowly deaf in my left ear, but noise pollution doesn’t bother me too much, even though it’s well nigh ubiquitous. Perhaps that’s why–it’s literally white noise, even the worst of it. Smell pollution, on the other hand, bothers me mentally and physically, and often strikes me as a kind of insidious ambush.

(more…)

Finch News: Limited, Etc.

Jeff VanderMeer • May 30th, 2009 • News

Forgive me for tooting my own horn, but…Just a couple of updates on Finch, which is in pre-production. First off, Underland has done a lovely job of making the layout noirish without overdoing it. The type is readable but unique, and it just looks really good. Secondly, there will definitely be a Finch limited, including a soundtrack by Murder by Death. I don’t know what the limited’s print run will be, but if it’s 300 or under I will personalize each signing sheet by writing in a couple of sentences of deleted text. There’s just about enough good deleted stuff to do that for 300 copies. If you’re interested, just email victoria at underlandpress.com to reserve a copy or ask for more details. The trade edition will be in bookstores November 1st, and there will be a release party at World Fantasy Con, at which I am a guest of honor. Then I’ll be off for four to five weeks of touring behind Finch and Booklife, all across the country.

Here’s the short description of the novel:

In Finch, mysterious underground inhabitants known as the gray caps have reconquered the failed fantasy state Ambergris and put it under martial law. They have disbanded House Hoegbotton and are controlling the human inhabitants with strange addictive drugs, internment in camps, and random acts of terror. The rebel resistance is scattered, and the gray caps are using human labor to build two strange towers. Against this backdrop, John Finch, who lives alone with a cat and a lizard, must solve an impossible double murder for his gray cap masters while trying to make contact with the rebels. Nothing is as it seems as Finch and his disintegrating partner Wyte negotiate their way through a landscape of spies, rebels, and deception. Trapped by his job and the city, Finch is about to come face to face with a series of mysteries that will change him and Ambergris forever.

Also, blurbs have begun to come in. I’m psyched because although Finch is a fantasy novel, it’s also a noir detective mystery and early notices from some of my favorite writers in that genre are enthusiastic.

(more…)

Books Acquired on Vacation Jaunt: Perec, Arreola, Nabokov, Hipflask, and More

Jeff VanderMeer • May 29th, 2009 • Book Reviews, Photos


(“Wait. Whut? That ain’t a book!” No, it’s not. And that’s not dust on the mantel, either. So, is it a gun? A music box? A perpetual motion machine? Check out the whole photo gallery to figure it out–just another impulse buy between book purchases this past weekend.)

I’m resigned to a ridiculous fact: despite the insane number of books that enter our house every single day for review or blurbage or whatever, additional book buying will always occur. In part, it’s because I need to create a bulwark of books I want to read as a defense against the tidal wave of books I have to read (without knowing if I’ll actually like them). This is no complaint against receiving books for review–I’ll always delight in them. But I’ll also always delight in the hunt for obscure titles and old favorites. This past weekend, we picked up some things at Chamblin Bookmine and Wolf’s Head Books (both stories documented in recent posts)…

(more…)

Books Received–Late May 2009, Thirty Years Before The Collapse

Jeff VanderMeer • May 29th, 2009 • Book Reviews, Photos


(Paul Riddell has abandoned genre/pop culture commentary for a kinder, gentler world, but that doesn’t mean his rants, diatribes, analyses, and assorted other forms of nonfiction kung-fu have vanished off the face of the earth. Two volumes–Greasing the Pan and The Savage Pen of Onan–have just appeared from Fantastic Books. They provide a compelling, telling snapshot of a genre and genre culture from an outsider’s point-of-view–and an outsider with nothing to lose. No stories to place in anthologies. No novels to worry about shepherding into the world. His might be a minority opinion at times, it might be too brash at times, but genre needed and still needs the gut-check. Genre also needs the self-assurance to welcome such discourse. Check ‘em out)

Yes, well, you’ve guessed it: another books post, with commentary. You’re just going to put up with it this week. Next week: more variety! This week: it’s a steady death-march diet of books, books, books, and you’d damn well better like it, folks…

(more…)

Wolf’s Head Books…and the Allure of Old-School Lurid?

Jeff VanderMeer • May 28th, 2009 • Culture, Photos

Wolf’s Head Books doesn’t specialize in old-school mass market paperbacks and lurid hardcovers (like the ones above)–they have a respectable collection of great first edition hardcover lit/fiction, for example. But…their weirder stuff sure is compelling, as documented below. You can find Wolf’s Head in St. Augustine, Florida. They have an extremely knowledgeable staff, and often do appraisals for various collectors and book lovers in the state.

…and don’t be mistaken–many of these mass markets are really good books…

(more…)

Punch-Out. Play. Figures. Star Wars. Finns. Cats. Rope. Someone Green.

Jeff VanderMeer • May 28th, 2009 • Culture, Photos

Latest Star Wars punch-out-and-play post at Omnivoracious, featuring Cherie Priest’s cat and Tero Ykspetäjä’s beyond-the-call-of-duty spa, convention, and sailing ship!!! (There’s even a green guy, and there’s Steph Swainston being a good sport.) Burnings and explosions to follow from Jukka “Prince Among Thieves” Halme and Tessa “I Keel U With Mah Mind Bullets” Kum.

The Chamblin Bookmine: A Bibliophile’s Fevre Dream…

Jeff VanderMeer • May 27th, 2009 • Culture, Videos

What do I do to relax after a refreshing car crash? I make a little video with meta-narration about my favorite used bookstore in the world: Chamblin Bookmine. At the very least, it should show you just how ridiculous the place is, in the best sense of the word.

Ann and I have traveled the world and visited many a great bookstore, but none, not even the Strand, can compare to Chamblin’s, in Jacksonville, Florida. “Bookmine” is an apt title because it’s the only bookstore I’ve ever gotten lost in–it’s that big. You could literally fit anywhere from four to eight other used bookstores inside of it. (David Moles, can I get a “Hallelujah!”?)

If you don’t want to view the video, here’s the link to the photos in a flickr set, although perhaps not in the right sequential order.

The thing about Chamblin Bookmine is that they take everything–I mean, everything–of any possible value. With the result that you can even find, in addition to truly precious first editions and limiteds, you get such specificity of subject it’s insane. Like, a whole couple of shelves devoted to:

(more…)